Weekly roundup 10/02/2017

10 February 2017


In the news recently:

The possibility of astronauts being able to grow their own food has long been a focus for NASA, with various projects over the years. Its latest project, the Advanced Plant Habitat, will record each stage of growth for the plants in the space station, enabling new insights into how plants respond to microgravity and other forces at work in space. A crucial innovation is that the Habitat will serve as a light source for the plants, emitting around 1,000 micromoles. The researchers hope to be able to test different spectrums at different intensities to see which works best. Find out more from NASA here.

When China agreed to COP21 in Paris in December 2015, President XI stated his country would ‘unwaveringly pursue sustainable development’. Costs of renewable energies have dropped significantly in China since and, in January this year, the Chinese government announced it hopes to increase the share of the renewable energy sources in the country’s energy mix up to 20% and intends to spend more than $360 billion by 2020 to that end. Longyangxia Dam Solar Park in the western province of Qinghai has now overtaken Kamuthi Solar Power Project in Tamil Nadu, India, as the largest in the world.

The futuristic dream of a flying car hasn’t materialised yet but plenty of entrepreneurs are still working on it – although their visions have altered slightly. In October 2016, Uber published a report detailing its business case for air taxis, which the company sees as the future of on-demand transportation. While the company isn’t developing any prototypes itself, it is advising several companies that are. Airbus hopes its flying taxi project, the Vahana, could be ready in as little as 10 years. Its design - a cockpit mounted on a sled and flanked by propellers – doesn’t quite look like the famous flying Ford Focus in the Harry Potter series, however. Elsewhere, Chinese company EHang is scaling-up its core product, drones, to carry people instead. Read about these and other projects in the pipeline here.

February is Low Vision Awareness Month and the US National Eye Institute (NEI) is raising awareness by highlighting new technologies and tools to help the 4.1 million Americans living with low vision or blindness. Find out more here.

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